Friday, October 18, 2013

The Last Days of Summer....and Fall

     Barb and I both recently retired and embarked on a 3 week Retiree Celebration trip to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and Central Wisconsin.  It was planned so we could experience all the beautiful fall colors previously unavailable to us as we were working.  We also planned to hit a few casinos and get in some fall golf as well.  We began our trip in Hessel, MI and finished up in Hog Island, MI before heading home.  We camped out utilizing both 'boondocking' and service campgrounds.  We boondocked utilizing solar power for 11 of our 20 days on the road.

     As earlier blogs showed we enjoyed some very tasty Cajun, Pasties, Pizza, Walleye, Italian, and Finnish meals in Marquette, Ishpeming, Houghton, and Waupaca.  I even got to whip out a few mini-feasts myself making Shrimp Po Boys, BBQ Chicken Thighs, Clam Stips, and Pork Stir Fry.  We took the opportunity to stock up by vacuum-packing and freezing 10 lbs. each of Whitefish, Cudighi, Andouille, Polish Sausage, and German Bratwurst for our Alaska Pantry.  I am beginning to hope it all fits in the freezer next spring.

     We also experienced the first of which I am sure will not be the last RV maintenance adventures as we had to fix a broken leaf spring and a small water leak.  We had the leaf spring fixed in Escanaba at Hilltop RV, who got us in and out in a little over an hour at a reasonable $123.

     Our visit to Waupaca, WI brought us together again with our best friends (40 years next year) and the original  'Great Falls Gang'.  The three of us and our families were all stationed together in the US Air Force in Great Falls, Montana in the mid 70s.  We try to get together at least every other year and it always provides for a good bonfire and the same old stories that we never seem to get tired of.  The wives, however might have their own versions.

    We return home now to unload the winterize the RV for this year.  New tires, brakes, and an awning are on the maintenance agenda.  We anticipate getting things ready and once again journeying off on the road once more in the spring; this time on our adventure of a lifetime........Alaska!     
     Listed below are the campgrounds and sites we used, their prices, and a review:

Bay City Lake:  Hessel, MI  FREE Dispersed camping near  pond or in woods 2 miles north of town on Bay City Road.    Boondocking.  Casino & GREAT golf course. 

Pioneer Park Campground:  Escanaba, MI $22/night Elec/Water/Cable TV.  There is a dump station.  70 sites. Kids playground onsite.   DETOUR FOR RV MAINT.

Ojibwa Casino Campground:  Marquette, MI FREE with daily registration every day = free drink pass & $5 cash.  7 sites, no reservations.  Get there early in the afternoon to assure a site.  Electric only.  Close proximity (7 miles) to Marquette and Big Bay sights. 

Hancock Recreation Area:  Hancock, MI $22/night 57 sites.  Most have Electric (30/50 amps) and cable TV.  Only 10 have Elec/Water.  There are 14 tent only sites.  There is a dump site.  Firewood and ice available.  Free WiFi.  Right on the Portage Canal, close proximity to Houghton/Hancock/Copper Harbor & all the sights.

Imp Lake:  Watersmeet, MI $12/night US Forest Service Campground.  Well pump.  Boondocking  Casino & GREAT golf course nearby @ Lac View Desert Casino.

Our Best Friend’s Campground:  Waupaca, WI.  Absolutely free power and water.  Boondocked 3 days.

Island Casino and Resort Campsite:  Harris, MI $20/night for water/electric.  About 50 sites.  Free WiFI Included GREAT bathrooms/showers/laundry facilities as well as courtesy shuttle to and from casino.  Also, we were granted access to the hotel pool and sauna. 
GREAT golf course, but it rained & I was unable to play.

Hog Island Campground:  Naubinway, MI State Forest Campground $13  Well pump.  Boondocking.  Great view & beach.

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Crossroads Restaurant and Lounge

     I love to cook and still orchestrate the galley in the RV, but part of what this blog is dedicated to is sampling the local regional cuisine and passing along our findings.  As such, we find ourselves at Marquette, day #2.  Don't worry, I'm cooking tomorrow night. 
     This could have easily been titled 'The Best Pasties in the UP' or 'The Best Fish Fry in Marquette 7 Years Running' or even 'Home of the Crab Stuffed Whitefish'.  The Crossroads is also famous for their incredible Prime Rib dinners each weekend.  They are featured in the Marquette Mining Journal's Best of 2013 Menu Guide.
      It is located at the intersection of Marquette County roads 553 and 480 within 7 miles of town and also within easy reach of the Ojibwa Casino, where Barb and I camped (with electricity) for free.  This is a down-home, family-friendly type of eatery that was recommended to us last year by Ann and Larry Chappel who used to live near here. It is not only a haven for many locals, but a 'must-stop' for the snowmobile and cross country ski crowd when the white shroud descends.  We were so thoroughly impressed we vowed to return this fall.

     I was thoroughly enamored with their pasty last visit so I decided to sample anew. I went with the Crab Stuffed Whitefish which was served with fresh, steamed vegees, mashed potatoes, and coleslaw.   Barb loved the Shrimp Extravaganza our last visit and true to her very small comfort zone stayed with the same.  It also came with coleslaw and a baked potato/sour cream.  We both ended up with 'to go' boxes; plenty of food!  The service is quick and efficient even on a Friday evening.  The food is second to none! 


     The Crossroads does not have a website, but you can view the Marquette Mining Journal's Menu Guide here:  http://extras.miningjournal.net/ads/MenuGuide2013/MenuGuide2013-19.jpg
     
    

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Lagniappe

     We're on the road again.  This trip is to celebrate Barb's recent retirement from the USPS and we're doing a several week Upper Peninsula Color/Casino/Golf Tour.  We began with a couple of days in Hessel; not much color, but some good golf.  After a detour to fix a busted RV leaf spring mount our second leg of the journey brought us to Marquette in the North Central UP. 
     There are plenty of places one would associate with GREAT Cajun food; Lafayette, Baton Rouge, even West Monroe.  Perhaps one of the last places anyone would place on this list would be Marquette, Michigan.  Located in the middle of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, Marquette is sometimes known as the UP's cosmopolitan city.  Located downtown between Washington Street and the Jackson Cut, this might just be the best kept secret in Michigan! 

     Chef Don Durley has been an active force in UP cuisine for nearly 30 years.  Since that time a standard of quality food and service unsurpassed has been the basis for their authentic southern eatery. Stepping into Lagniappe is like stepping out of Marquette and into Louisiana. Every menu item and ingredient is made from scratch and in house. 
     The menu is quite expansive and diverse, from alligator and crawfish nacho appetizers to gumbo, creole, etouffe, into Cajun seafood and pasta that will demand your attention.  My wife and I visited the restaurant on a Thursday, which also included an authentic zydeco band, keeping the evening quite entertaining and lively.  The dining room was full, but the service staff was helpful, efficient, and quick to keep up with customer demands. 

     Barb ordered the Ham & Cheese Po Boy with her choice of cheeses ( 1 of their 18 Po Boys) and I went with my favorite 'wing man', the Crawfish Etouffe.  I often try to encourage my wife to expand her horizons and try something a bit off the chart, but she loves her comfort zone.  When the food was served, I was quickly converted.  The Etouffe was the best I have ever tasted outside of Louisiana, including my own!  Thick with a rich roux that complimented the crawfish, celery, onion, bell peppers, and rice.....the perfect amount of spice vs. flavor!
 
     Lagniappe is an establishment well worth visiting.  Atmosphere ranging from the VooDoo Bar to the Gris Gris Shop to the dining room, this place has it all.  But, above all it has delicious food.  Visiting Marquette and an evening at Lagniappe should be a shared experience not to be overlooked.  Outside of Cajun Country.......THIS IS A GOOD AS IT GETS!